Today’s post comes from Aaron Bianco, a theology professor at the University of San Diego, a Catholic school in southern California. Aaron has spoken at national and international meetings on LGBTQ and Young Adult issues within the Catholic Church. He lives with his husband and dog in California.
Today’s liturgical readings for the Solemnity of the Ascension can be found here.
In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear the words “People of Galilee why are you standing there looking up into the sky?” How often are we looking to the sky for answers to the many questions we have as LGBTQ Catholics?
And how is the ascended Savior answering us? We find some of those answers in today’s Gospel reading in which Jesus tells his disciples, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” What does that directive mean for you and me in the LGBTQ community? It means we must proclaim that we have found a God who loves us unconditionally, a God who is choosing to give us the blessing of being LGBTQ.
It also means we must take our rightful place in the Church. We must stand up against those in the Church who think it is their responsibility to decide who Jesus welcomes and who he does not. We have a calling to preach the Gospel message of love. A love that knows no limits, a love that drenches the fire of hate that is on the hearts of some in our own Church family.
On the other hand, we must also ask ourselves where do we fail in preaching the Gospel? Are we embarrassed or nervous to let people know we are Christians? Are we silent when we hear those around us mocking our faith?
While as LGBTQ Catholics we know the road is not easy, we also know that we have received love from so many in the Church. We’ve received this love from many including some religious sisters, priests, bishops, and most importantly our own family and friends who are part of the faith. We must be willing to share the faith with others. We must be willing to share our highs and our lows in the Church community.
As a theology professor at a Catholic university, I am often asked by my students, “Why do you stay in a Church that doesn’t fully accept you and your marriage?” My answer is always the same: by virtue of my baptism this Church is my rightful home. I love the Church the same way I love my family. The good and the bad. I don’t leave my family because I disagree with them or think differently. It’s the same with the Church – I acknowledge her wrong doings and I applaud her accomplishments.
Our relationship with the Church is based on our relationship with Christ. Christ is who we worship, not the Church. With this in mind, today’s readings remind us of the call to discipleship. A call that binds us to community a community of believers. It is in this community that we hear the stories of the faith.
This task should be very easy for us in the LGBTQ community. Isn’t this what we’ve always had to do? We have had to build our own community of family and friends who accept us, who allow us to be authentically true to who we are. It’s in these communities that we learn to be free and true to ourselves. It’s in these communities we learn to love and we learn to know what it means to be an LGBTQ person.
It’s not always easy, and there are tears and thoughts of jumping back in the closet, but these communities we have formed give us the love and the listening ear we need to continue our journey to learn to love ourselves just the way we are.
It’s the same for this community we call Church. It is here we learn what it means to be a Christian, it is here where we hear the stories of those women and men who went before us in the faith and persevered even when it wasn’t easy. Most importantly we learn to love ourselves, as we learn of this God who wonderfully made us in Gods own image.
We as LGBTQ Catholics must embrace the call in today’s readings and proclaim the joy and love we have found in God. We must not let others take away the joy we have found both in the Church and outside of it. This is our journey, and our journey is worthy of praise.
So, on Ascension Sunday let us fix our gaze not on the sky, but on those who need to see the joy we have found with our relationship with the living God .
—Aaron Bianco, University of San Diego, May 16, 2021